Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Fettuccine with Spinach Pesto

So I said I was going to blog about something fun and exciting for Monday night.  Yeah well I completely forgot about blogging-- sorry! :)

I did cook tonight though.  This is one of my favorite pasta dishes.  Everyone in my family loves it, plus it sneaks spinach into Carter.  Eli will eat almost anything, Carter is a little pickier, so this is perfect for him.

As always, here's the link to the original recipe and here's how I make it.

The goods

Fettuccine with Spinach Pesto
Prep time 25 mins
Total time 25 mins
Serves 4

1 Package fettuccine
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
2 tablespoons pine nuts, plus more for serving
2-3 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon grated zest plus 2 tablespoons juice from 1 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup cold water
1. Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water according to package instructions. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water, drain pasta, and return to pot.
2. While pasta is cooking, place spinach, Parmesan, nuts, garlic, and lemon zest and juice in a food processor. Process until a paste forms. With motor running, add oil and cold water; process until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Add to pasta; toss, adding reserved pasta water a little at a time until sauce is thinned slightly and coats fettuccine (you may not need all the water). Serve, sprinkled with additional Parmesan and nuts.
Steps of making the pesto:
All aboard!
Pre oil and water

Ready to mingle with the pasta

I always serve this with chicken breasts.  My method for chicken is simple. 

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a heavy oven safe pan over medium high heat.  Sprinkle garlic salt on one side of the chicken breasts.  Once the butter is melted place the chicken in the pan, garlic salt side down.  Sprinkle the other side of the chicken with garlic salt.  Cook chicken for about 3-4 minutes until browned, flip the chicken and cook again for 3-4 minutes.  Place the pan (with the chicken in it) in the oven to finish cooking, approximately 15-20 minutes, or until the internal temperature is 165-170 degrees.

YUM!

I talk about garlic salt a lot so I thought I'd show you the kind I use.  Here it is:


This is the only garlic salt I use.  Why? Because when Jon and I were first dating it's what he had in his cupboard.  I liked it so much I adopted it as my own.  Jon thinks it's pretty funny how loyal I am to this particular garlic salt.  He thinks it's the parsley that makes me feel fancy.  I think it tastes good.

On the menu for tomorrow is frittata, but we'll see what happens.  Frittata has been on the menu since last week, things just keep getting in the way.  Our crazy week last week and, I think the biggest motivator, it just hasn't sounded good to me.  Jon asked for it.  I know I'll love it when I eat it so I just need to make it already!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Pork Chops and Orzo

Hooray, I'm finally blogging a recipe! This was Friday night's dinner.  I was too tired to blog the last two nights.  I didn't really cook Saturday night. We spent a long day at the beach I didn't want to cook when we got home, so I had a salad and Jon and the boys had bacon and scrambled eggs.  So I guess I kind of cooked, but not really.  Tonight we went out for dinner. But at least I cooked --one-- time this week! ;)

There are actually recipes I came up with.  I'm quite proud of them.

The supplies

Pork Chops
Prep time 1 min
Cook time 10 mins

1-2 Packages of thin cut pork chops
1 Cup Italian bread crumbs
1 Egg
1/4 Cup Milk
Olive oil

1. Warm the olive oil, I don't have an exact amount, in a large heavy pan over medium high heat.  The oil should come up the side of the pan about half an inch.  I use our cast iron pans for this, they are the best for frying.
2. While waiting for the oil to heat up, put the bread crumbs in a boil.  In a separate bowl combine the egg and milk and beat.
3.  Once the oil is warmed up, if you sprinkle water in the oil it should quickly evaporate, dip one of the pork chops in the egg mixture and then into the breadcrumbs.  Place the pork chop in the pan and continue until the pan is full, but not overfull. Our small cast iron fits 3 nicely, the large 4.
4.  Cook the pork chops for 3-4 minutes a side, until done.  I cook my pork to 160 degrees.
5.  Repeat steps 3 and 4 until all the pork chops are cooked.

I use thin cut pork chops, these kind


because they cook quickly.  I normally use two packages, or 2 pounds or so so we have leftovers.  Onto the pasta!

Yumminess in the making

Garlic Parmesan Orzo
Prep time 1 min
Cook time 15 min

1 Box of orzo
2-3 Tbsp garlic salt
1 Tbsp butter
1/4 Parmesan cheese

1.  Cook the box of orzo per the package directions.
2.  Drain orzo and place back into the pan you cooked the pasta in.
3.  Add the butter, stir, add the garlic salt, stir, add the Parmesan cheese, stir.  Mix well and serve.

Dinner is served!

I served dinner with fresh corn on the cob.  It didn't really go with the meal, but it was at a local fruit stand  and sounded good.  Plus I wanted to make sure I used it before it went bad.  (Which was good seeing as I didn't cook the next two days!)

I didn't get to grocery shop this weekend, we were too busy having fun! So tomorrow's dinner is going to be something I have on hand, orange chicken, rice and spring rolls.  I've already blogged about that dinner but I am going to try to think of something else to blog about.  I've missed blogging and want to get back in the habit of blogging every night.  Hopefully I think of something fun and exciting! :)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

8 Day Sabbatical

I haven't cooked in 6 days, I won't be cooking for the next 2.  I think this is the longest I've ever not cooked dinner.  I miss cooking but I miss our dear Maddie more. 

Maddie (our very sick doggie I mentioned last night) passed away while at the vet last night.  We found out this morning and it threw a wrench in all of today's plans.


Rest in Peace Maddie Mae

I had every intention of cooking dinner, I was really looking forward to cooking too.  The boys and I had to pick Jon up from work and then we stopped by Barnes and Noble on the way home.  By the time we left Barnes and Noble it was 6:00pm, it was hot and we were all hungry and cranky.  To top things off Eli refused to go into his car seat.  His new game is to throw a world class fit when we try to put him in his car seat.  He screamed and cried for 20 minutes today on the short drive to lunch, this was after fighting for 10 minutes to get him in his car seat.  I didn't have the energy to fight him again. 

We made a split second decision to eat out.  Where you may ask, Cucina Cucina.  Why there?  Because it was the only restaurant in the parking lot.  It's not our favorite place to eat, but we were all happier an hour later and everyone got in the car happily.

I'm not cooking tomorrow night, my Mom's in town for a quick visit so we're eating out, or Thursday night, Farmer's Market night.  So hopefully life will be a little more settled and I'll be back on Friday with some yummy recipes.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Life..

No recipes again tonight.  We have a very sick dog and had to make an unplanned trip to the vet this evening.  The boys had McDonald's for dinner, Jon and I haven't eaten yet.

Here's hoping tomorrow is a better day and I finally cook a meal! :)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Slacker

Yes, I'm a slacker.  It's not that I don't want to blog, it's that I haven't cooked anything the last two nights.  Friday night we went out to Qdoba and tonight I made frozen pizza.  Tonight I was so exhausted after a very long day, even making frozen pizza felt like too much work! Yesterday we went to Costco after nap time and it was just easier to eat out.  Plus I have quite a few free birthday meals I need to use.

So go ahead, call me a slacker, I feel like I'm following the lead of my good friend Erin. (Hehehe, just kidding Erin!) She has an awesome blog, Erin Rages, that you should check out.

I won't be cooking tomorrow night either.  It's my birthday and my father-in-law is taking us out for Mexican food.  Yum!!! I'll be back Monday....maybe.  ;)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Tools of the Trade-- the Spider

No cooking for me tonight, it was Farmer's Market night! So instead I'll share another one of my favorite tools, the spider.
Not the best picture.  Our spider is pretty long, about 14 inches so it was hard to get a good picture of it by myself.


Side View


The spider is super useful.  I use it mainly for fishing food out of hot oil and hot water.  It's great for blanching spinach (for sauteed spinach) and retrieving ravioli out of hot water.  The spider allows you to use the same pot of hot water for multiple batches of spinach.  With the spider ravioli don't burst open from being dumped out of hot water.

Spider action shots:





My only complaint about the spider is it's size.  It's so large it doesn't fit in my utensil drawer and I have to store it in a cabinet.  I continually forget where I keep it, even though it's been in the same place since I've owned it.  (Oh the joys of Mommy brain!)  It would fit fine in a counter top utensil tub, but we don't have one of those. :)



Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Alfredo Sauce Fail

I made dinner tonight.  It tasted good. But I'm taking a hint and I'm not blogging about the recipe tonight.

Here's the list of missteps that I encountered along the way.
1. I didn't have enough Parmesan cheese.
2. The Alfredo sauce didn't melt correctly and had a weird texture.  (I was fine with it, it bothered Jon.)
3. Instead of emailing myself the pictures I took for my blog, I deleted them.

So I'm taking the hint, no Alfredo sauce recipe tonight.  I make it often, it will live another day!



Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Spaghetti Meat Sauce

No witty title tonight, actually I've decided to drop the witty titles all together.  (At least, I thought they were witty.  I realized that keeping track of the recipes I've blogged about could get tricky and time consuming, unless I just titled the blog the recipe.  Boring I know but it will save a small amount of my remaining sanity.

I stumbled across tonight's recipe when I went to make spaghetti and meatballs one night for dinner, only to discover I had no spaghetti sauce.  You'll find a ton of spaghetti sauce recipes online, this one fit my criteria that night.  Quick and I had all the ingredients on hand.



Yes, I had all of these on hand that day.  Don't let the number of ingredients scare you.  This recipe goes together very quickly and is super easy to make.  (Please note: there is a missing member of the cast, mushrooms.  I had them in the fridge, I just forgot them for the picture.)

Here's the link to the original recipe and below is how I make it.

Quick Spaghetti Meat Sauce
Prep: 15 mins
Cook time: 45 mins
Serves 6

1 teaspoon dried basil leaves 
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 bay leaf 
2 pounds lean ground beef

1 teaspoon salt 
2 tablespoons granulated garlic or to taste

1 medium onion, chopped
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
2 (16-ounce) cans diced tomatoes
2 cups beef broth
8 Ounces sliced mushrooms
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon soy sauce  
1 package spaghetti, cooked according to package directions
Parmesan cheese

1.  In small bowl, combine the basil, oregano, parsley and bay leaf, set aside.
2. In a large saucepan, brown the ground beef over medium-high heat.  After the meat is browned, season with salt and garlic.
3.  Add the onion to the saucepan and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and cook an additional 5 minutes.
4.  Stir in the reserved spice mixture and cooking for 1 minutes.
5.  Add the remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 15 to 30 minutes.
6.  Mix the spaghetti and sauce in a large bowl to evenly coat the spaghetti.  Top with Parmesan cheese and serve.


Sorry for the lame picture.  I was in such a hurry to get dinner to the table, I forgot to take a picture.  So I made Jon's lunch for tomorrow look pretty and took a picture of it.

Now I'm sure there are other delicious from scratch spaghetti sauce recipes out there, but they take hours, days, weeks even.  This recipe is quick and yummy.  WAY better than any out of the jar sauce I've had.

Tomorrow is another pasta night.  Ravioli (store bought) with homemade Alfredo sauce
.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Tip #1

I was blessed with a wonderful gift tonight, a night out.  I went to dinner and a movie with friends.  Not only did I not make dinner, I got to skip bedtime too!

So tonight I will share with you one of my favorite kitchen tips.

I'm by no means a pro in the kitchen.  I still have my struggles and I still have a ton to learn.  One of the things I'm beginning to master is time management when it comes to cooking more than one dish. 

There have been many times in the past when I've made two, three or four dishes only to have half of them be cold when served.  To combat this I've learned a little trick.  Turn your oven on to it's lowest setting, 170 degrees on our oven.

When you finish one dish, let's say bacon, but are still waiting on another dish, say waffles, pop the bacon in the oven to keep it warm.  This also works great for waffles.  Make one waffle, pop it in the oven while you make the next and repeat.

I also use this trick when making falafel or french fries.  When a batch of falafel is done, it goes into the oven.  When every things done cooking, the food is still warm! :)

I'll be making a real meal tomorrow, spaghetti with meat sauce from scratch.  Thanks for putting up with three nights of no recipes!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Guest Star!

My wonderful husband loves to cook as much as I do but he doesn't get to do it very often.  Typically he comes home after working all day, I throw him and the boys outside and I'm left inside alone to cook dinner.  It's my very precious "me" time.


I think this same wonderful husband has a little bit of blog envy.  Every few days he'll say, "If you don't want to blog tonight, I'll do it for you." or "If you ever want a break from cooking, I'll cook dinner.  I'll even blog about it." or "If you ever want a break from blogging, just let me know.  I'll be happy to take a turn."  Whatever his motive, I think it's cute and I've decided to give him a turn.


We harvested the onions from our Pea Patch today and we now have a ton of onions.  Our favorite thing to make with a ton of onions is French Onion Soup. Jon is the French Onion Soup maker in our house.  French Onion Soup making is a weekend adventure.  It takes a lot of time for perfection but the soup is worth every second you wait.  We only make French Onion Soup once or twice a year and I savor every bowl.  I'm not a big soup fan, but there's just something about this soup that makes my mouth water.  So we had French Onion Soup for dinner, oh and hamburgers too.  I'll blog about the hamburgers when we have them next time; we have them often, the soup, sadly, not so much.


So without further ado, here's that wonderful husband of mine!

Hello, Jon here, taking over the blog for the evening. Like Abbey, I'm not a soup fan, I like Baked Potato Soup (heart attack in a bowl), Chili, Stew and French Onion. That's it. I never really thought or knew anything about French Onion soup until I saw my patron saint of kitchens, Alton Brown, make it on Good Eats.

A quick aside about Good Eats. I love the show. It's my absolute favorite on the Food Network. The humor and style is right up my alley. What I love most though is that he teaches you about food. You don't sit there and watch Alton cook something you'll never make (for the most part). He teaches you about techniques and ingredients. He teaches you about hygiene, storage, kitchen equipment, etc. I owe my love of cooking to this show.

So, needless to say, I made Alton's recipe. I'm not going to repeat the whole thing here but I'll go into our modifications. First, this is a dish to make if you like to cook and don't mind spending some time in the kitchen. You'll spend a lot of time on this dish with your knives. If you cook, you owe it to yourself to get a good chef's knife. Several years ago, I took one of those omnipresent Bed Bath & Beyond 20% off coupons and picked up basically this set. Take care of a good quality knife and it will last you forever. That means no dishwasher!

Anyway, back to the onions, 4-5lbs of Frenching onions. For those not in the know, Frenching is a style of cutting. If you're not sure how to dissect an onion, click the recipe link above and watch the video. I find a certain zen in it and really love Frenching onions. When done, you'll be rewarded with something like this:



At this point your kitchen will start to smell delicious. Honestly, is there much out there that smells better than onions and butter? Now the waiting starts, About an hour later you start working on the soup portion of things when five pounds of onions has cooked down to two cups.

Now its time for the liquid. Here is where we start to deviate from Alton's recipe. His soup came out too sweet for our liking. So we simply omit the apple cider and double the chicken stock. The wine and caramelized onions still leave plenty of sweetness but we feel the final product is more balanced to our liking. Here you see the soup approaching completion, complete with bouquet garni (tied up mess of herbs).


Now, if there is a reason for French Onion Soup to exist, it's the cheese toast. Today's batch was a little spur of the moment so we didn't get the best bread or cheese. Normally I'd prefer a crusty rustic loaf from Trader Joe's and some decent Gruyere, instead it was deli sour dough and Swiss cheese. Here's the finished product.


Not the prettiest presentation ever, the cheese was taking too long to brown and we were done waiting, but here's the great thing, even with "sub par" ingredients and not enough patience to brown the cheese, it was absolutely delicious. Maybe its the home grown onions or the time spent playing with my knives, but I always enjoy this dish. If you like to cook and like onions (and if you don't, what's wrong with you?), give this dish a shot, just make sure to set aside two to three hours or so. You're not constantly busy, but you have to check in on things from time to time. Good Luck!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Tools of the Trade

I didn't cook tonight, we went out for dinner tonight.  Because I know you're dying to know where we went, I'll tell you.  We went to good ol' Old County Buffet.  It's not my favorite place, but it is Carter's. :)

I've decided when I don't cook I'm still going to blog.  I decided I'd share one of my favorite kitchen tips, talk about one of my favorite kitchen tools, discuss my method for menu planning and grocery shopping, or who knows what else I'll come with it.  It will be a surprise!

Tonight I want to share one of my favorite kitchen tools, my probe thermometer.

(Is is just me or does the picture look like a pregnancy test?)

I use my probe thermometers almost every night.  I have two instant read thermometers (like the picture above) and two oven probe thermometers.  I use my instant read thermometers for anything cooked on the stove and my oven thermometers for, you guessed it, anything cooked in the oven.

At this point, I've pretty good at knowing when meat is done, but my thermometers make sure I don't give anyone food poisoning.  They're my cooking insurance.

If you don't have a probe thermometer, get one.  They aren't that expensive, but they are worth their weight in gold.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Oops!

Meatloaf is the ultimate comfort food.  How could you not love a loaf made of meat?

I've made many different meatloaves, I've tired them all.  Ones made with all beef, ones with veggies inside, ones made from three different kinds of meat (very common for meatloaves,) glazes on top, etc. I've come to the conclusion, I'm not trying new meatloaf recipes anymore.  I know what my family likes and I'm sticking to what we like.  My meat ratio is 2:1.  Two pounds of beef to one pound of pork.

Below is my basic recipe.  When I make meatloaf I don't measure the ingredients.  I just know what the right amount is and what it's suppose to look like, so be warned all the measurements listed below are guesstimates, but they should be close enough.  :)

The goods:

Abbey's Meatloaf
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 1 Hour
Serves: A lot (6-8?)

2 lbs Ground Beef
1 Package Pork Sausage (12-16oz)
2 eggs
1/2 Cup Breadcrumbs
1/4 Cup Grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp Garlic powder
1 Tbsp Onion powder
1/4 Cup Dried Chopped onion

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.  Set a baking rack inside a baking sheet tray.

3.  But first cover the baking rack with foil, then place it inside the sheet tray.


4.  Poke holes through the foil to allow the fat to drain while the meatloaf is cooking.  (I grew up with meatloaves cooked in glass loaf pans.  That method makes for a soggy, fatty, meat loaf.)
5.  Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.  Form into a loaf on the foil.
6.  Bake for 1 hour or until the internal temperature is 160 degrees.
7.  Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.  Serve as is or my favorite way, with a side of ketchup

Battlestar Meatloaftica (as Jon calls my meatloaves) is ready to eat.

I served my meatloaf with sauteed green beans and Trader Joe's rice orzo and pilaf mix.  (Basically Rice-A-Roni but with WAY less sodium.)  I really wanted to make mashed potatoes, The Pioneer Woman has the BEST mashed potato recipe, but Trader Joe's was out of Yukon Gold potatoes and I refuse to pay $5.99 for a 5 pound bag at Safeway or QFC.  That recipe will just have to wait for another day.

Mmmm, dinner.

Please make sure you use dried onions, fresh onions have too much moisture in them.  The meatloaf won't stay together as it cooks and the moisture is released from the onions.

So the best part of the meal?  As we were eating dinner I realized that this isn't the recipe I use anymore.  I typically add two envelopes of Lipton French Onion Soup mix.  And don't add the Parmesan cheese.  While this meatloaf was good, the soup mix makes it way better.  I don't think I'll be making that mistake again.  But, hey, we're all human, right?

To make the meatloaf the right way, just add two envelopes of the soup mix to my list of ingredients and omit the Parmesan cheese and then prepare as listed above.  You won't be disappointed!

The correct list of ingredients
2 lbs Ground Beef
1 Package Pork Sausage (12-16oz)
2 eggs
2 Envelops Lipton French Onion soup mix
1/2 Cup Breadcrumbs
1 Tbsp Garlic powder
1 Tbsp Onion powder
1/4 Cup Dried Chopped onion

Comfort Food... part 2

This was Wednesday night's dinner.  We went to the farmer's market last night and I didn't have the energy to blog afterwards. So you get a midday blog!  (Thank heavens for nap time!)

I made Chicken Divan, another dish from my childhood.  I don't have an actual recipe, I just kind of know how to make it.  My measurements are approximates, but I'm pretty sure they're close enough.  :)  As I've gotten older, I've discovered there are many different versions of Chicken Divan.  This is my mom's version.

Chicken Divan
Prep time: 30 mins
Cook time: 30 mins
Serves: 4

4 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
2lbs Frozen Broccoli
1 Can Cream of Chicken Soup
1/2 Cup Mayonnaise
1 tsp Curry powder
Shredded Cheddar Cheese
1-2 Tbsp Butter
1/4-1/2 Cup Breadcrumbs

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Add the chicken breasts and cook until the internal temperature reads 165 degrees.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

2. While the chicken is cooking, microwave the frozen broccoli until it is no longer frozen.  You don't want it pipping hot, just not frozen.

3.  In  a small bowl, mix the cream of chicken soup, mayonnaise and curry powder.

4.  Once the broccoli and chicken are cooked assemble the dish.  In a 9x13 baking dish, put the broccoli on the bottom, the chicken on top of the broccoli and then cover the chicken and broccoli with the soup mixture.

5.  Cover the dish with the cheese.  You can put as much or as little cheese are you would like. Just make sure there is a layer covering all the chicken and broccoli.

6.  Melt the butter in a bowl or small dish in the microwave.  Add bread crumbs until they are the texture of wet sand.  (Sorry, bad analogy, but that's all I could think of!) Once again, use as little or as much butter and bread crumbs as you want.  Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture on top of the cheese.

7.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until the bread crumbs and cheese start to brown.

Enjoy!

My mom always used left over turkey from Thanksgiving for this dish.  So growing up I always had shredded turkey in this dish.  It was just as good.  You could even use a store bought rotisserie chicken to save time.

You could also use fresh broccoli and steam it before adding it to the dish, but that just takes more time.  Plus I've found the yummiest frozen broccoli at Trader Joe's.

Jon doesn't like curry, so I end up splitting the soup mixture in half and putting curry in my half and cumin in Jon's half.  He says it tastes better with the cumin, I think he's crazy.

Speaking of Jon, his favorite part of the whole dish is the butter/breadcrumb mixture.  He would have me double to amount of breadcrumbs and butter but I have to make this dish somewhat healthy, right? ;)

I didn't take any pictures, I completely forgot, please forgive me.  I will take pictures of tonight's dinner... meatloaf!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Pasta is heaven

I'm addicted to pasta and I'm ok with my addiction. Pasta is one of the few things that I never grow tired of. This post is for Tuesday's night dinner. I didn't feel like blogging yesterday, sorry if I let you all down by skipping a day. ;)

Here's the link the original recipe. And below is how I make it.  It's another Woman's Day recipe.  I get so many recipes from that magazine.  It's the only reason I have a subscription.  I don't even read the rest of the magazine, I've tried, but it just annoys me.  For $5.00 a year I get my money's worth.

Creamy Pasta with Leeks, Peas & Parmesan
Active Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Serves: 6

1 Package orecchiette pasta (16 ounces)
1 Package frozen peas (16 ounces)
1 lemon
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 leeks (white and light green parts only), sliced into half-moons
Kosher salt and pepper
1 Pint heavy cream
1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 cup grated Parmesan

1.  Cook the pasta according to package directions, adding the peas during the last 2 minutes of cooking; save a cup of the pasta water, then drain.
2.  Zest the lemon. 
3.  Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 6 to 8 minutes.
4.  Add the cream, lemon zest and nutmeg and simmer until slightly thickened, 2 to 3 minutes.
5.  Add the pasta and peas to the skillet and toss to combine. Sprinkle with the Parmesan before serving.


Yum.  I served ours with grilled sweet Italian sausage and lazy garlic toast.  (Lazy garlic toast = toast some bread, butter it and sprinkle with garlic salt.)

A few tips for this dish:
1. Always save some of the pasta water, you should really do this with any pasta dish that will have a cream based sauce.  Pasta water is truly amazing.  It helps the sauce coat the pasta without the sauce tasting watered down.  This time I used about half a cup of pasta water, but you should always save around a cup.  Once you dump that heavenly water, you can't get it back.

2.  Every recipe I've seen that calls for leeks talks about cleaning the leeks.  I've only had to clean my leeks once.  Basically, if you see dirt in the middle of the leeks, then clean them.  If not, don't worry about the extra step.

3. I use more peas, cream and pasta.  I don't like when recipes call for weird amounts.  I'd rather use a whole package of peas then leave 4 ounces just hanging around.  (Not that we wouldn't eat them, we love peas in our house. That's another reason I add the extra peas.)  Also, the recipe calls for 12 ounces of pasta, where in the world would you find a 12 ounce bag of pasta?

4.  Don't throw away the lemon after zesting it, save it for another dish.  I put mine in a Ziploc bag and put it in the fridge, I'll be using it on Friday in my green beans.

5.  I don't use the tarragon it calls for because I don't like tarragon.  If you like tarragon go ahead and add it.  I don't know how it will taste though.


Since I used nutmeg two nights in a row I decided I should show you the "real" stuff.  Here is nutmeg whole:

Here's nutmeg after a few trips across the micro plane:

I always get a kick out of the inside of the nutmeg.  Don't ask my why, I'm weird, it makes me happy.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Quiche part 2... The recipe



After a night's sleep (not good, just a night's) I'm less annoyed with the quiche. While it didn't work out for dinner last night, with two full quiches in the fridge we now have a week's worth of breakfast and lunch leftovers!

The recipe I’ve developed for my quiche is based on the quiche Lorraine recipe from my trusty Better Homes & Gardens cookbook. I'm not going to post the original recipe, because I've changed it a bit, I’m just going to post my version. Let's call it quiche Cantrell. Please note this makes two full quiches or 12 servings.

Quiche Cantrell
Prep time: 25 minutes
Bake time: 35 minutes to an hour
Makes 2 quiches

2 Premade Pie crusts
1lb Bacon, sliced into 1 inch pieces
4 Ounces mushrooms, sliced thin
1 Medium onion, sliced thin
6 Eggs
3 Cups milk
½ teaspoon Salt
Nutmeg
3 Cups Swiss cheese, shredded
2 Tablespoons Flour

1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Remove pie crusts from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature, this takes approx. 15 minutes. Once the oven and pie crusts are ready, put one pie crust into a pie dish, yes you’ll need two pie dishes for this recipe. Poke the bottom of each pie crust with a fork 5-6 times to prevent big bubbles from forming while the crust bakes. Bake for 5-10 minutes or until the crust is very light brown and no longer looks wet.  Once the crust is done baking turn the oven down to 325 degrees.
2. While the pie crust is baking, cook the bacon until crisp. I use our cast iron pan on medium-high heat. This step can take 5-15 minutes depending on the size of your pan and how thick the bacon is.
3. While the bacon is cooking prep the mushrooms and onion. Then start grating the cheese. If you’re using pre-grated cheese, you can skip that last part.
4. After the bacon is crisp use a slotted spoon to remove from the pan and set aside. I use a paper towel lined plate to help drain off the extra bacon grease.
5. Using the same pan as the bacon, cook the onions until they start to brown, 4-5 minutes. Add the mushrooms once the onions are browned. Cook the mushrooms and onions together until the mushrooms start to brown, another 4-5 minutes. Finish grating the cheese if needed.
6. Once the mushrooms and onions are brown, turn the heat to low while you finish prepping the remaining ingredients.
7. In a small bowl, combine the cheese and flour. Make sure the flour evenly coats the cheese.
8. In a medium sized bowl, add the eggs and beat. Add the milk, salt and nutmeg. Stir in the bacon, mushrooms and onions. Next add the cheese and mix well.
9. Pour the mixture into the pie crusts, making sure there is an even (or as close to even as possible) amount of liquid and solids in each crust.
10. Bake for 35 minutes to an hour… or longer. The quiche is done once the top is slightly browned and you can insert a knife in the middle and it comes out clean.
11. Remove the quiche from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes before serving. This step is important. If you skip this step the quiche may not be fully set and could fall apart when you try to remove it from the pie pan.

I know this recipe sounds complicated, but it really isn’t. The original recipe only has three steps, mine has 11 because this is the way I prepare it. I hate when a recipe has 3 steps, but inside each step there are 4-5 steps they’re assuming you’ve already done. I found that very frustrating when I first started cooking. I learned to always read, reread and read again any recipe before starting it.

You can save yourself sometime by buying pre-grated cheese, but I like the taste of freshly grated cheese. You could make your own pie crust, I haven’t tackled that challenge yet, I’m perfectly happy saving time and energy using the premade Pillsbury stuff you find the refrigerated section at the grocery store. Oh, and 4 ounces of mushrooms is half a package.

I use fresh nutmeg, I think it tastes better. You can but whole nutmeg in the bulk section, they look like small walnuts. You just need a micro plane/zester . I use ours for nutmeg, garlic, cheese, lemons, and all sorts of stuff. I was scared of it at first, but know it’s one of my favorite kitchen tools.

For some reason I’m out of flour, strange I know, so I used cornstarch instead and it worked fine.

Make sure you turn the oven down to 325 after backing the pie crusts.  I've fogotten this step in the past and it wasn't pretty.
This is another dish that tastes better the next day. I always make two quiches so we have lots of leftovers, if you only want to make one, you can half the recipe and only get one. :)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Quiche Part 1...Annoyed

I made quiche for dinner tonight. Jon and I love quiche. Quiche didn't love us tonight. It took too long to cook and we didn't end up eating it for dinner.

We had sad dinners instead. I had a bowl of cabbage and noodles and a salad. Jon had a salad, half a sandwich leftover for the zoo yesterday and three small pieces of leftover pizza from Friday. See sad dinners. (Except for the salads! Oh and my cabbage and noodles... so maybe Jon was the only one who had a sad dinner.)
I'm annoyed with the quiche and don't feel like blogging about it tonight. I'll blog about it tomorrow during my jury duty. Now that I've said that I'm sure I'll get pulled into the first jury pool.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Lazy night

My family had a long, fun day at the zoo. We got home late with very little time to cook dinner. So I made a lazy dinner, grilled sandwiches. Yes, that's a fancy name for grilled cheese.

The boys had good ol' American cheese on wheat. (Speaking of, come on Tillamook medium cheddar baby loaf will you go on a good sale already?!?)

Jon had fancy white cheddar on sourdough.

I had the best of all three options, brie and black forest ham on sourdough. The brie melted perfectly and was all gooey, warm and delicious. I only recently developed the taste for brie cheese and I'm so glad I did. It's nutty, smooth and yummy melted on a sandwich, spread on a cracker or any other way!

Sorry no pictures tonight. I have jury duty tomorrow so I can only hope I get home in time to cook dinner! Quiche is on the menu. :)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Comfort Food

Comfort food is the best kind of food. No matter what mood I'm in or how bad my day has been, my comfort foods can always give me a moment or two of happiness.

My mom didn't cook much when I was growing up. She did make dinner, but she didn't do a lot from scratch. She did a lot of baking though, yummy baking. I'm still a little timid on the baking front.

One dish she made a lot was cabbage and noodles. Cabbage and noodles is either a dish you love (like my brother and me) or hate (like my husband and sister in law.) I've tried a thousand times to get Jon to like cabbage and noodles, it hasn't worked. (Just like he'll never get me to like corned beef-- yuck!)

This recipe takes a bit of time, it's not something to make if you're in a hurry. But it is super easy, with only 4 ingredients, and it takes very little cooking skills. :)

Cabbage & Noodles
1 head of cabbage
1 bag of egg noodles (these are my favorite, but I can't find them locally so I use plain ol egg noodles and I really don't need 12 bags on hand)
1 stick of butter (you may not need the whole stick)
Salt

Melt half a stick of butter in an electric skillet set to 300 degrees or in a pan on medium heat. Cut the cabbage into approx 1 inches pieces and add to the butter. (I love the color of raw cabbage, it's so pretty.)


Cook the cabbage until it's nice and brown. This step takes some patience and time. Make sure you taste often and add salt as needed. Like a watched pot that never boils, watched cabbage never browns. It took about an hour for my cabbage to get nice and brown today. Make sure to stir the cabbage often, if it starts to stick add a little more butter.
Once the cabbage is browned, turned the heat down to warm on the skillet or low on the stove. Boil the noodles and then add the cooked noodles to the cabbage plus a little more butter.
At this point you could eat the cabbage and noodles or you could wait another half hour to hour and enjoy a much better dish. (If you let it sit, make sure to stir every now and then and add more butter if it starts to stick.) Believe me it's worth the wait. The flavors blend together and the whole dish tastes so much better. Leftovers are the best. I never make this dish for a specific meal. It's always to have as a go to. Breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner, it doesn't matter cabbage and noddles is an anytime food for me!

I guess I should metion, we didn't have this for dinner, we ate at Qdoba. But I did cook this this morning. :)

Friday, August 5, 2011

Pizza!

Are you ready for my favorite cooking tip?

Make homemade pizza in a cast iron pan. Seriously. I know it sounds crazy, I was skeptic the first time I tried it, but its awesome.

We love making homemade pizza (or home pizza as Carter calls it) but we always had a hard time with the dough. The dough would either stick to the cooking surface (no matter how many different surfaces or anti-sticking tricks we tired) or the dough would be raw and the top of the pizza would be burnt. But not when cooked in a cast iron. Our pizzas, top to bottom, turn out great every time now.
This isn't the best trick if you're trying to make lots of pizzas, but for one or two it works great. We're lucky enough to have two cast iron pans so we can make a grown up (see recipe below) pizza and a kid (pineapple and bacon, Carter's favorite) pizza at the same time.

I learned this trick from this recipe. I love this pizza, it hits the spot every time I make it. Plus it is super easy to make. One tip, make sure you slice the mushrooms very thin, that way when they cook you don't end up with extra moisture from the mushrooms on top of the pizza. Oh and I double the amount of goat cheese. I have recently learned to like goat cheese, but now that I have, I'm slightly addicted to it's wonderful tanginess.

Leek, Mushroom & Pesto Pizza
adapted from Woman's Day
4 oz mushrooms, very thinly sliced
1 small leek (white and light green parts only), halved crosswise and lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 Tbsp olive oil
Kosher salt and pepper
1 lb pizza dough
2 Tbsp pesto
4 oz fresh goat cheese, crumbled (about 1/2 cup)

Recipe Preparation
1. Heat oven to 425°F. In a large bowl, toss the mushrooms, leek, oil, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper.

2. Shape the pizza dough into a 12-in. round and place in the bottom and slightly up the sides of a large (10- to 12-in.) cast-iron skillet.

3. Spread the pesto over the dough, leaving a 1/4-in. border. Top with the vegetables and sprinkle with the goat cheese. Bake until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes.


Before:

After:

Pure heaven.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Sun!

It was farmer's market night. Thanks to the wonderful weather we're having we got to have a picnic again. I'm so happy the sun has decided to hang around for awhile. My kids (and I) are so much happier when we get to do things outdoors.

This is how Eli spent most of the picnic, with the bag of Doritos. I finally gave up fighting him and had a "bad" parent episode. He basically ate Doritos and watermelon for dinner. But he was super cute the whole time doing it!



And here's the promised video of Carter dancing. Not his most active dancing, he was a little distracted. :)

video

Tomorrow night I'm back to cooking and I'm excited to share one of my favorite cooking tips!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

BACON!

I was never a big fan of bacon. And then I met my future husband. Through his love of all that is bacon, I've become a fan. He loves telling the story of the time he was in Hawaii and went to the best breakfast buffet. He had a plate of bacon. That's right, nothing else except bacon. (My response? "Please tell me you ate some fresh, wonderful Hawaiian fruit to counter act the bacon!")

Over the years I've grown to respect bacon. Bacon, good bacon, is heaven. But it has to be good bacon. We get our bacon from a butcher, our favorite butcher. If you live anywhere near Issaquah, WA you need to go to Fischer Meats. They slice the bacon to order. Thick, thin, or medium like I ask for it. Plus they have everything else a butcher should have. And they are friendly!

Tonight's dinner was BLTs. BLTs are simple, fast and delicious. In case you're crazy insane and have never had a BLT here's how you make one.

One slice of toasted bread.
A little mayo.
Lettuce.
Tomatoes.
Bacon.
A little mayo.
One slice of toasted bread.

That's just the basic construction. The possibilities and combinations are really endless. You can use any bread you want. Jon likes white bread, I like hearty wheat bread. (This bread is hands down my favorite bread ever. It's the only wheat I can get Jon to eat without him complaining I'm a hippie.) You can use any type of lettuce or tomato you want. You can, like Jon, add cheese (tonight it was Monterey Jack) or like me add avocados.
Here's all the fixins' (please excuse my pathetic avocado. It's hard to get a good avocado in Washington!)


Really a BLT is a "choose your own adventure" kind of meal. You can even pick some fun side dishes. Tonight we had fresh sliced peaches and salads.

Mmmmm, bacon.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A Hawaiian delight!

I don't know how Hawaiian these really are but I don't care. They are delicious.


Here's the original recipe, below is my version. I use www.cooks.com for a lot of my recipe searches. It's a great website because it offers lots of recipes for the same dish, just with slight variations. From what I can tell it's a website where the average cook can post their recipe.


Hawaiian Meatballs
adapted from www.cooks.com

1 1/2 lb. ground beef
2/3 c. cracker crumbs
1/3 c. minced/chopped dried onion
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/4 c. milk
1 tbsp. shortening
2 tbsp. cornstarch
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 can pineapple tidbits (13 1/2 oz.)
1/3 c. vinegar
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1/3 c. green pepper, chopped

Drain pine1apple, reserving liquid.
Mix meat, crumbs, onion, egg, salt, ginger and milk. Shape mixture into balls, approx a tablespoon of meat per ball.
Melt shortening in large skillet over medium-high heat; brown and cook meatballs.
Remove meatballs and keep warm. I do this by preheating the oven to the lowest setting, 170 degrees on our oven, and putting the meatballs in the oven while the sauce cooks.
Pour fat from skillet.
Mix cornstarch and sugar, stir in pineapple syrup, vinegar, and soy sauce until smooth.
Pour into skillet; use medium heat, stirring constantly until thick and boiling. Cook 1 minute.
Add meatballs, tidbits and green pepper. Heat thoroughly.
Serve over hot cooked rice.


These are the best tasting meatballs I've ever made. The texture is prefect and the meatballs stay together and don't crumble apart as they cook. The next time I make spaghetti and meatballs I am going to use this basic meatball recipe, but leave out the ginger and add onion powder and garlic powder instead

And this is how I know Jon approves of a meal.


Monday, August 1, 2011

Summer salad

As you already know, I love salads. I love entree salads, not as much as salad bars, so I guess I should say I like entree salads. After not cooking for two days I was really looking forward to making dinner tonight. I found a new recipe in a magazine last week (which is where I get a ton of my recipes, but more on that in a future post) and made sure to add it to our menu for this week. (I'll be blogging about my menu planning in the future as well.)

Here's a link to the original recipe. I did made a few changes, see my version below. I cooked the steak indoors, in our largest cast iron pan. (We don't a very functional BBQ right now, which makes me very sad, otherwise I would have thrown the meat on the grill.) I cooked the steak a few minutes longer per side as well. I'm not fond of rare meat. Medium well is where I like my steak. I also didn't precoat the salad with dressing. I never know when I'll actually get to sit down and eat and I've been burnt by a soggy salad one too many times. Lastly, we just had tortilla chips on the side.

Fajita Chop-Chop Salad
recipe adapted from Family Fun magazine
Hands-on Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 35 minutes (includes marinating time)
Serves: 4

Ingredients
FOR THE STEAK
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 (8-ounce) skirt steaks

FOR THE SALAD
1 large head Romaine lettuce, finely shredded
1 medium red pepper, chopped
1 cup frozen corn, cooked and cooled
1 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup shredded Monterey Jack

FOR THE DRESSING
1/2 cup prepared salsa
1/4 cup sour cream

Instructions
In a large bowl, combine the olive oil, chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper. Add the steaks and toss well to coat. Marinate the steaks in the refrigerator for one hour. In another large bowl, toss all the ingredients for the salad except for the chips. Refrigerate this mixture until you're ready to use it.

Heat a large cast iron pan until very hot. Cook the meat about 4-5 minutes per side. Let the meat rest for 5 minutes, then slice it into 1/2-inch-thick strips.

Whisk together the dressing ingredients. To serve, fill each bowl with salad, then top it with several strips of steak and the salad dressing.

Here's a picture before I put the dressing on. The dressing would have ruined the beautifulness!

The salad was pretty good. Next time I will make some changes to the marinade. The first time I try a new recipe I typically follow the directions exactly. I've become more confident in my cooking and when making a dish a second time, I often adjust the recipe based on our taste. To this recipe I will use more chili powder, add a little cayenne pepper and lime juice to the marinade.

I have a three ring binder I keep most of my recipes in. (Once again, more on that in the future.) Below is a picture of how I'll file this recipe. The original, plus a little post it note with the changes I'll make next time. If those changes work, the post it will stay, if not it will be replaced with a new post it of notes until I fine tune the recipe.



One the menu for tomorrow, Hawaiian Meatballs!